June 29th, 2016

#5250: It's been a century since 2010?

"In fact, our local star is quieter than it’s been for more than a century."

Spotless days in 2009: 260. Spotless days in 2010: 51. (Look at the table on the left side of the page, midway down, where they tally sunspot counts in recent years.)

But yeah, the sun is blank again, and it's been blank for longer this year (nine days so far) than it has since 2010; in 2011 there were two spotless days and there was one in 2014.

I don't blame the reporter for not knowing we've had spotless days in recent years. I blame him for not doing any research on the matter. Even a quick Googe search would have told him how long it's been since solar activity was this low. The sentence I quoted needs only minor modification to be both scientifically accurate and true-to-fact, rather than misleading sensationalism. (Simply add "in the past decade," right after "In fact,..." and change "is" to "has been" and you've done it.)

So: bonus points for not following the warmista party line ("solar insolation is irrelevant") and correctly identifying the sun as the major driver of climate on Earth. Minus several for not explaining it right.

* * *

China may actually make it to the moon, but that's a long haul and there's a lot wrong with their economy. It takes a lot of economic effort to support a program of space exploration, particularly one that includes a permanent manned presence on the moon; I'm not sure China can do it. They're about fifty, sixty years into communist totalitarianism, and history has shown that such societies do not have much longevity. With the economic news I see reported, I don't think China can maintain themselves much longer, not like this.

We know China vastly overreports crucial economic indicators; their numbers are almost as trusworthy as those from our federal government. A lot of elites would like it not to be so, but the wheels appear to be coming off the bandwagon there, the same way they're coming off everywhere else. That which cannot be sustained will not be, and all the fervent wishes to the contrary won't make it not so.

So I'm not as optimistic as the Arse Technica article is. I do not have much optimism for a Chinese lunar effort, because China already cannot afford to do what they're attempting. China may do it--the same way North Korea manages to have a nuclear program and develop ICBMs while their people starve to death and 99% of the country lives in squalor--but it will be a small accomplishment, nothing like the grand vision its boosters imagine: a handful of carefully-picked people living in conditions which would have appalled the Apollo astronauts. (Who had to crap in diapers, for example.)

And every third person there will be a political officer, some politically reliable drone who almost knows how to do something useful but who certainly knows how to spout Party doctrine. This will be the doom of the Chinese effort on the moon, because "almost useful" is no damned good when there is too much work for too few hands. And they do not dare populate a large base with smart people without that level of political oversight, because once there are enough smart people there with sufficient resources they might just stop listening to their political masters in Beijing.

* * *

Cold anger is dangerous. The guy lunging around and screaming his head off, he might be hazardous and he might be unhinged, but he's manageable. You know, more or less, where his head is at, and the danger he presents is easily countered.

The guy sitting there quietly and taking everything in, you don't know what he's thinking or planning. When he acts, you're surprised (unpleasantly) and your attempts to stop him have been anticipated and planned for. He's studied your contingency plans, he knows your doctrines and procedures--perhaps better than you do, or at least better than your political bosses do--and he knows the best time to act for maximum effect.

I thought I had read this before. The comments at that post talk a lot about the reality of unions. That, too, has not gone unnoticed.

* * *

If you show up to someone else's permitted gathering in order to use violence to shut them up, you are the problem. Yes, the people with the permit were "white nationalists". They still have a right to speak in a public venue; our Constitution guarantees it.

The purpose of the First Amendment is to protect speech which is unpopular.
Folks, nobody ever tries to censor speech that isn't disagreeable. The First Amendment was written specifically to protect speech that is disagreeable to those hearing it, because that's the only time it matters!
This is why I always speak out against the "heckler's veto" or--in this case--the rioter's veto. If anyone can, with sufficient force, prevent someone from exercising that right, we descend from "rule of law" to mob rule, where might makes right and the loudest voices drown out all others.

In Blues Brothers much humor is extracted from Elwood Blues driving the Bluesmobile through a demonstration by the Illinois Nazi Party. But in that scene we see the police protecting the Nazis from the mob because the Nazis have the right to speak even though the police think the Nazis are full of horseshit. And funny as they are, Elwood's actions are wrong.

* * *

I'm not sure what to think about this. Cuba is a communist shithole, but if there's one thing a communist dictatorship knows how to do it's run a security screen. If Cuba's airport security isn't up to DHS standards that might not be entirely a bad thing. And if I were running a dictatorship I sure as hell wouldn't want a bunch of effete American dickheads coming into my country and telling me how I had to run things.

* * *

"Do the actions of the police make sense to any of you?" Of course they do. The function of police is to apprehend lawbreakers for trial. End of list. They're not there to be heroes, they're not there to rescue people in danger, they're not there for anything other than arresting people who have broken the law.

The Orlando police--even their SWAT team--were not obligated to do anything to prevent further loss of life. Their only job was to apprehend the shooter, or kill him trying. Their fancy mil-spec gear is there to protect them and the other cops; it's not there to enable them to go in and bust down doors and stop bad guys who are actively shooting people.

I mean, sure--you can do that, go in with guns blazing, and maybe get your head blown off. Or maybe a few of the bullets from your gun will end up in civilians, and you'll be facing a huge lawsuit from the decedents' families. Or this, or that, or the other thing...whereas if you just sit tight and wait, the worst that will happen is a few people will ask, "Why didn't you go in sooner?" and you can give all kinds of logical reasons why not. And pat yourself on the back for being a brave policeman.

* * *

So I saw a trailer for the reboot of Westworld before last week's excellent Game of Thrones epsiode (as Wonderduck said, "Woof, woof, [mofo].") and I was interested in seeing it.

Now, not so much.

I don't know exactly what it is, but the series described by that article just doesn't sound interesting or entertaining to me. Usually my disinterest is caused by the (usually correct) feeling that the story was told right the first time--remakes are rarely superior to the original material--but that's not the case here, and from the trailer alone I figured it was actually an entirely new story which didn't have to be called Westworld. (Much the same way Battlestar Galactica could have had an entirely different name because of its superficial similarity to the original material.)

I think that much of it comes from the fact that, in the past few years, there have been several series which attempted to deal with the consequences of artificially intelligent, humanoid robots, and none of them have been entertaining or even interesting enough to hold my attention for more than a few episodes. I further don't like the "post-human" bent this series is supposed to be taking, at least according to what's said in the article about it.

I want my SF to be promethean, and this is epimethean as all get-out. I don't like stories about the end of Man.

So when this thing hits the cable, I might watch it and I might not. I just don't know.

* * *

So, after the big union baby strike killed Hostess, I've been waiting for the Suzy Q to come back. The Twinkie came back, the Ho-Ho returned, the cupcakes--but not the Suzy Q, and I was sad.

Today, Mrs. Fungus surprised me with a box of Suzy Qs, back at last! I was delighted...until we got home and I opened the box.

First off, they're tiny, about 30-40% smaller than they once were. About on par with a single Little Debbie Devil Twin, which is so named because they come in packs of two, unlike this box of Suzy Qs. Second, there's not nearly enough creme between the layers of cake. Third, the cakes are not baked individually; they're obviously sliced from a much larger sheet: it looks as if one large sheet has creme deposited on it, another sheet is laid atop it, and then they're sliced to size.

They got all the other ones right. Why'd they fuck up this one?

* * *

Speaking of bad food manufacturing decisions, Pepsi has reversed course on the diet Pepsi and have decided to put aspartame back into it. They cut the aspartame and went with other sweeteners such that the label no longer contains the phenylalanine warning (which, I have been told, if you need to be warned that the product contains phenylalanine, you're not going to be in any condition to understand or heed the warning).

Apparently sales of diet Pepsi dropped in response, because the flavor changed. The sweetness has gotten more sugary, less "flat" tasting; I've noticed the difference but didn't really mind it, and by now I've adjusted to it. Now I'll have to get used to the aspartame flavor again, I suppose. It won't be much of a stretch.

It's kind of amazing to me that corporations--even with the "New Coke" example--still think that messing with success is the ticket to greater success.

* * *

Now, it's been how long since I busted the downstream O2 sensor in the Jeep? Yeah, since March 26. That's right. Long enough to accumulate a whole slew of gas station receipts with mileage-per-tank figures on them.

I haven't crunched any numbers, but since I munged that downstream O2 sensor and the "check engine" light has been on, the Jeep has been fairly consistently getting 20 MPG or better. There are a few outliers, few enough in number to dismiss them as differences in "full tank" pump shutoffs. If I go to the same pump at the same gas station consistently, though, the fuel economy figures line up right around 20 MPG, plus-minus a bit.

This from a vehicle that could barely get 18 MPG beforehand. Same driving pattern, same everything. Regardless of brand, too; the slight improvement I got using Speedway gas is now gone and I get the same economy from Shell gas I get from Speedway gas.

So, yeah: apparently you can have a bad O2 sensor which nonetheless passes muster enough not to trigger a diagnostic code, but the instant it fails and the engine computer stops paying attention to it, fuel economy improves.

I'm going to have to replace it sometime in July, because this is the year the Jeep needs to be smogged before I can renew the plates; and if my fuel economy drops below 20 after the new one's in place I'm going to rig a switch or something to shut it off when I'm not getting the truck smogged. WTF.

The other thing: today I drove Mrs. Fungus to a podiatrist appointment in Naperville, because she needed an ingrown toenail dealt with, and on our way home I determined something interesting about the shimmy.

The shimmy is maddening because it comes and goes. Sometimes it's there, sometimes not. I thought that was mere mechanical bloody-mindedness. But today on a long, long curve on southbound 294, speed constant, I could feel the shimmy come and go; and that alerted me to pay attention to the truck, and I noticed that the shimmy came and went, came and went, whenever I'd go into a curve that was long enough.

Previously I'd had several inchoate theories about why the vibration came and went, but now I know it's got to do with the relative angular position of the wheels. It's some kind of resonant vibration--I knew that already--but now I know that when the front wheels are in the right phase it's absent.

Jeep's due for a tire rotation again, which past experience has already shown won't fix the problem. The problem existed with the old set of tires, so--again--it's not the tires which are causing this.

I'm beginning to wonder if I could pull the front driveshaft? If it's constructed correctly I could do that without the transfer case puking all its lube out, and then see if the lack of a front shaft changed the nature of the vibration. I'm starting to suspect that it's some kind of driveline issue, something vibrating there that only becomes noticeable around 55 MPH because then it's in resonance.

But I'm thinking that it's not "death wobble" because that comes on and stays regardless of speed, and only stops when you drop below the critical speed. The really bad vibration comes on around 50 and stops almost completely above 60. (When it's present, which isn't always. Heck, in the past few days alone there have been three or four instances of me driving at 55 MPH, peak wobble, with no vibration whatsoever in the front end.)

Well, on the plus side, with the impending holiday weekend I may have enough time to dig into it, at least a little bit. The rear brakes are squealing a bit and the serpentine belt is about due for a replacement (this one has nearly 60k on it now) so I suppose it wouldn't hurt to spend some time wrenching on the old crate.

And if I do, I think I may pull the steering knuckles and check the ball joints per Og's suggestion. That's a bitch to do, but I'm otherwise running out of ideas, and I'm getting really, really sick of this damnable shimmy.

* * *

Man, I started writing this post just after noon on Tuesday; now it's after 3 AM Wednesday and it's not up yet. Time to end it and send it. Sheesh.

#5251: I think that's an appropriate response.

Interns fired for being gits. Short form: intern was unhappy with her employer's dress code, so she got together with other interns and they put together a petition to change the dress code to business casual.

Employer: you're all fired.

Here's the thing: when you do that kind of thing, you self-identify as a troublemaker. I love this:
We were shocked. The proposal was written professionally like examples I have learned about in school, and our arguments were thought out and well-reasoned. We weren’t even given a chance to discuss it. The worst part is that just before the meeting ended, one of the managers told us that the worker who was allowed to disobey the dress code was a former soldier who lost her leg and was therefore given permission to wear whatever kind of shoes she could walk in. You can’t even tell, and if we had known about this we would have factored it into our argument.
It doesn't matter how professionally written your proposal was. It doesn't matter how well you thought out your arguments. You work for a business and it's not a democracy.

The advice columnist thinks firing them all was extreme, but I do not, and for the very same reasons elucidated here:
Y'all were pretty out of line. You were interns there — basically guests for the summer. Their rules are their rules. This is like being a houseguest and presenting your host with a signed petition (!) to change their rules about cleaning up after yourself. You just don’t have the standing to do that.
The thing is, when I read just the paragraph blockquoted by Vox Day, I was pretty certain there was a medical reason for the exception to the rule; the one person in the office who was allowed to wear sneakers or flats had some valid pre-approved reason to be wearing shoes that don't fit the dress code. Having an artificial limb is certainly a good reason to grant an exception. (One commentor adds, "Other possibilities are Related To Boss and The Only One Who Can Make the Farglinugalator Work. Also up there is Consistently Leads in Sales." I like that, though I'm changing the spelling: "Farglinugulator".)

But you get a bunch of special snowflakes whining "It's not fair!" and--having been told all their lives that they're so smart and special--they're suprised when their attempts at redress get slapped down, hard.

* * *

Got lost in the comments, there. On to other things.

* * *

There's plenty of helium left. They found a huge field of helium in Tanzania, which is good to hear. We don't have as much of it as we used to; all those party balloons--

* * *

What's the rationale behind this prediction? They're saying food prices will rise by about 400% in the coming decade, but it just gives a bunch of inchoate causes like "global climate disruption". In fact the entire impetus behind this comes from a simulation/game done with 65 officials and experts from around the world, "intended to improve understanding of how governments, institutions, and private sector interests might interact to address a crisis in the global food system,..."

And the conclusion was that we're all going to starve?

"All moralistic pontificating aside, a return to small-scale, organic farming and switching to vegetarian diets, or at least a reduction in consumption of meat, could avert or abate the coming crisis," the article concludes--and if there is any prescription which would make global famine worse, it would be that kind of switch. (Not to mention a concomitant rise in diabetes and obesity and diseases caused by nutritional deficits.)

What could "avert or abate the coming crisis" is doubling down on GMO crops and increasing industrial farming. The United States--even using an ever-increasing percentage of its corn crop for making fuel!--is still the breadbasket of the world, and that is so because we have big business involved in farming. We're not where we are because we're doing "small-scale, organic farming".

What a load of horseshit.

* * *

Is one of the options to leave the car the hell alone and continue to drive it? If I had a VW diesel and liked it, I'd want to keep driving it as-is without fixing the software or anything, and would gladly waive receiving any of the settlement for my trouble. But $5 says that's not an option.

* * *

NASA building big, dumb, expensive boosters. Sure, SLS will eventually be able to boost 105 tons to orbit. In the process one launch will cost ten times as much as a single Falcon 9 Heavy launch will, which will boost 54 tons the same distance. Two launches, twenty percent of a single SLS, same paylod on-orbit. You do the math.

* * *

Because government cannot do anything efficiently. The fact that our government is fudging economic numbers and providing false statistics is not surprising, nor is the possibility that Social Security is already spending more than it's taking in.

* * *

Two hundred watt laser--that's a beam you can see without anything else in the air. Of course, if you look at that with unprotected eyes, it'll be the last thing you see. Two hundred watts is a lot of light, so much that the beam is visible in clear air just because of the photons scattering off the air molecules themselves.

Understand: when you look at a light bulb and you see that it's rated for, say, 60 watts, that's not how much light it puts out; that's how much power it consumes. A 100 watt incandescent light bulb produces about one watt of actual light; the rest is heat. A flourescent bulb need consume only about 40 watts of electricity to produce a watt of light. An LED fixture may consume 10 or 20 watts to generate a watt of light.

But what you're seeing in that video is two hundred watts of light, and that is a lot of light. It's a dangerous amount of light, in fact.

It's an impressive build, but it's certainly nothing I'd want to fool with.

* * *

Yesterday was errand day; today is chore day. I need to cut the grass, the kitchen and bathroom need cleaning, and I have a bunch of other little things to do. I'm hoping to go pick up a refill for my pills, too.

Better get after it. It's a shame, though, since it's such a nice, quiet day. Well, that's how it goes, I guess.

#5252: Raspberries?

Well, I suppose it's not terribly surprising that there are raspberries on all the raspberry canes growing in the front yard, but I certainly have never managed to harvest any before.

But today?

It certainly isn't on my "to-do" list but I bet if I went out there in clothes that better protected me from thorns I could find lots more. This was about five minutes' worth of wading in the lily of the valley bed and carefully extracting berries.

This almost kinda-sorta makes up for the damned things growing in our front yard in the first place; to me they're no better than weeds, but at least we got a little treat out of them, for once.

I suppose it's because there are no rabbits or squirrels hanging around the front yard this year. I've seen, on a few occasions, a dark-colored cat wandering around the local area, and I'd suspect that has something to do with the dearth of rabbits and squirrels. But what about birds? Don't they eat raspberries? Or is the mystery cat keeping them away, too?

Regardless, raspberries, fresh off the cane. Maybe have 'em after dinner tonight with a little sugar.

#5253: When the hell did they--?

They moved the Wal-Mart. It's in a different place, a not-obvious place on the other side of I-57.

I was on my way out there to get my prescription, and as I rode into the parking lot of the former location I was stunned at the lack of vehicles--usually the lot is packed, and--

"Moved to new location June 1," said the sign on the door. Are you kidding me??

...so I tried finding it, and rode a merry chase around Matteson and Richton Park until I gave up and called them. On the west side of I-57. Argh etc.

Rode out there, was in and out in a matter of minutes because the pharmacy is right by the doors, and went home. At least I had a nice ride on the bike, but it took too long, so now I find myself trying to get everything done in a lot less time. Since I got home around seven I've been working on cleaning the kitchen, and haven't had anything to eat, so now I'm taking a break for food and a few minutes' rest.

Oh--and when I got home at seven, it was to a puddle of water on the floor by the dishwasher. It's not coming from the sink; it's the dishwasher itself that's leaking, but there's no obvious dripping when it's not running, so what I'll have to do is run it and find the leak--but I don't have time for that today; I just dried up the water and made sure there wasn't water leaking from one of the supply pipes. Luckily it's not, because that would be an "oh shit call a plumber" situation. The utility room, in the basement, is right under the kitchen, and I can see the supply pipes for the sink; if one of them were leaking there'd be water dripping from the ceiling of the utility room, and it's bone dry down there. That means the dishwasher is what's leaking (it's partitioned off from the water supply pipes by cabinetry) and that means it's not an emergency. Thank the Lord for small favors: if we have to have a water leak in the kitchen, it's one that's managed simply by not using the dishwasher. Inconvenient--but merely inconvenient, and I like that just fine.

So I made a few command decisions about the kitchen, and one of 'em is that we do not need all these appliances here. The food processor has not been used since Mom died; I put it on a shelf in the basement. We haven't used the bread machine in two years; it too got stored elsewhere. Ditto for Mrs. Fungus' Krups egg poacher, which we've used one time in the four years we've been together.

The counter looks fantastic.

Now I just need to reproduce the same effect on the opposite side of the kitchen. No problem...once I've had something to eat.